UPDATE: In a statement to The New York Times, Def Jam said that “a newly updated, remixed and remastered version” of The Life of Pablo would be streaming on all major services by midnight on Friday. It also stated, “In the months to come, Kanye will release new updates, new versions and new iterations of the album,” calling it a “continuous process.”
Is the saga of Pablo finally coming to an end? Sources tell Billboard that Kanye West‘s latest album The Life of Pablo, which has been streaming exclusively on Tidal since its stuttered semi-release in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last month, will not only be available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music tomorrow, but will finally be released for sale. Now that West appears to finally be happy with the series of last-minute tweaks and adjustments he’s been making to the album, including several done yesterday (March 30), Pablo could arrive for download on his website in the next few days, possibly as early as today (March 31).
To recap: when Pablo was released after West’s Saturday Night Live performance last month around 2 in the morning, it was initially made available for download on KanyeWest.com and in Tidal’s store for $20, in addition to the stream. A few hours later, the download link was taken down and West’s site crashed, leaving some users with either multiple credit card charges as a result of the site being unresponsive or with purchases confirmed but without the album download code, as the files had been removed. When fans took to Twitter to complain, Tidal worked quickly to clear up the double charges (offering options for refunds and free trials to those affected) but, when the dust settled, about 4,000 fans were stuck having paid for an album that was no longer available to own.
Sources at the time told Billboard that West removed the album because he was unhappy with the masters and wanted to continue working on it. That certainly has seemed to be the case over the past six weeks, as West has continued tinkering with the project, adding and removing different versions of songs to the version streaming on Tidal and claiming Pablo would never be available widely. This week, however, ‘Ye seemed to change course when he released “Famous” and “I Love Kanye” to both Spotify and Apple Music. And now it seems he’s finally satisfied with what appears to be the “official” version of Pablo, with multiple sources telling Billboard that the full album will be made available on other streaming sites, and for sale via West’s website, possibly very soon.
One insider indicated that Tidal has already begun fulfilling the back orders for those 4,000 fans that remained in Pablo limbo, and that those affected should be receiving emails with their download codes imminently. It remains unclear if Universal Music Group has also begun to send out download copies of the album to the 20,000-some fans who purchased tickets to West’s Yeezy Season 3 fashion show at Madison Square Garden — which included the promise of a download code upon the album’s release — or those who bundled the album with a ticket to one of the approximately 800 movie theaters worldwide (400 in the U.S.) that live-streamed the fashion show. Reps for UMG did not return multiple requests for comment.
If the album does finally arrive, that would open the door for it to debut on the Billboard charts. As previously reported, the charts did not reflect any of those sales upon its release — even as one insider insisted that “tens of thousands” of purchases were fulfilled, which the label refuted — and would not until the album was officially delivered, essentially treating those purchases in pre-sale terms. And since West instructed Tidal to withhold streaming numbers from Nielsen Soundscan, Pablo has yet to debut on the chart (this week, Tidal reported Pablo was streamed 250 million times in its first 10 days of availability).
How many units Pablo can sell now, six weeks after its initial version was made available, is the question. Piracy watchdog TorrentFreak estimated that the album was illegally downloaded 500,000 times in the first 24 hours since it came out, a number that has only gone up, one retail executive says. At this point it’s safe to say that many fans have some version of Pablo. But on the strength of those previous sales, the album should comfortably debut in the top 10 of the Billboard 200.